Shazam: The magic word for DC movies
Shazam! The magic has been released into the Worlds of DC. The next installment in the DC franchise is now in cinemas everywhere and is enchanting everyone, from critics to young cinema viewers. Is Shazam! a sign for the future? I dare to say YES! While furthering itself from the usual formula of a cinematic universe, the Worlds of DC (ex-DCEU) is giving us more well-rounded solo movies. After the success of Wonder Woman and Aquaman, Shazam! marks the start of a new era for DC movies. And the recently released Joker trailer shows they are willing to go further than ever before.
Director David F. Sandberg comes from horror (Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation) so Shazam! really is a surprise. We all have a superhero inside of us — it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In 14-year-old Billy Batson’s case, all he needs to do is shout out one word to transform into the adult superhero Shazam. Still a kid at heart, Shazam revels in the new version of himself by doing what any other teen would do — have fun while testing out his newfound powers. But he’ll need to master them quickly before the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana can get his hands on Shazam’s magical abilities. It might sound strange, but Shazam! is the most MCU-esque DC movie to date. As opposed to the other DC movies, this one is light-hearted, full of jokes and humor and is heart-warming in the end, with a strong message about accepting your family and friends. The screenplay is written by Henry Gayden, on his first big movie job and it’s really good. The jokes are generally well written, though there are some hidden adult jokes (really, kids won’t notice anything) and some exaggerated scenes, but balanced overall. I would say Shazam!‘s two weak spots are the villain (like usual) and the sudden passing between the second and the third act (at least for me). The importance of family and accepting every member as they are is felt throughout the whole movie, but at some point it, before the climax, the theme reaches it’s high point with not enough force. It pays off in the end, in the final battle, but just before that it’s a little forced.
When it comes to the actors, Shazam! is top notch. The kids are amazing and Zachary Levi is wonderful as a big man child. Jack Dylan Grazer (IT)is the highlight of the young actors, as Freddy Freeman, Billy’s foster brother. He’s funny, charismatic, dramatic when he needs too and he makes a wonderful sidekick to Levi‘s Shazam. He’s an outsider, a geek. He’s the main link to the rest of the DC Universe, as he knows everything about the other superhero. And we also finally establish that superheroes are now in the world: they have toys, action figures and people have collectibles and memorabilia (like Freddy, who has a bullet reflected by Superman). Billy Batson is played by almost newcomer Asher Angel. He’s a rebel, always running from his foster homes, always looking for his real parents, hoping he will one day find them. That makes him anti-social. He never takes roots, never befriends other kids. Until now. Turning into Shazam makes him rely on the only person he can trust, his foster brother Freddy. Their relationship is well developed, both as children and as superhero and sidekick/manager.
Zachary Levi is perfect in the role. He really embraces his kid side and brings joy, laughter and some awkwardness as a big man child, with superpowers. He never seems like an adult, keeping that childlike innocence and fears even when in the face of danger. He’s not Superman, even if he could stand toe to toe with him. He’s a child in a superhero’s body and Levi manages to show that perfectly. I was saying that the villain is one of the weak points. After seeing the movie, I can say the choice of having Dr Sivana as a villain is good. It would have been a waste to bring Black Adam so fast into the story. Mark Strong puts on his evil mask and creates another british villain we so love (or not) to see in superhero movies. He does have the gravitas to make the role his own, menacing and serious, but his character is not that well developed, as with many other villains. Another actor worth mentioning is Djimon Hounsou as the wizard Shazam, also an ex-Marvel actor joining the DC family (like Zachary), though his chances of coming back are slim.
When it comes to spectacle, Shazam! has lots of it. Magic is everywhere. Lightning, super speed, flight, evil monsters, this movie has it all. There are no big fight scenes like in other DC movies, but there is enough action for everyone. Also, the third act holds a huge surprise for the fans of the character! The sountrack is composed by Benjamin Wallfisch (IT, Blade Runner 2049 and the new Hellboy) and he does a marvelous job of capturing that classic superhero theme, like the oldschool Superman. Just listen below. The movie also uses its locations to the max! They hint at Rocky numerous times, with the action taking place in Philadelphia and they also use “The Eye of the Tiger” in Shazam’s training montage. We also have easter eggs hinting to other geeks subjects, like Big and Street Fighter (listen for a special sound effect in the final battle). And 2, I repeat TWO after credits scenes.
Like I said, Shazam! really brings something special to the Worlds of DC. It’s the kind of movie we needed and the DC Universe even more. It’s fun, light-hearted, family-friendly, full of magic and wonders, with a strong message about family. Don’t miss it!